This July, we continued our work with the Word is Bond youth program in Portland. Our fourth full year running programing with Word is Bond, it has been one of our most exciting and successful yet.
The Word is Bond youth program, created in partnership with the Portland Police Bureau, is a six-week summer community-building program that focuses on the dynamic between Portland youth and law enforcement. As part of this summer’s programming, we worked on building relationships and communication through various team building exercises and tasks, and we were delighted to see the blossoming of relationships and personal growth that resulted from our time together.
All of the interns and officers talked about learning about how they behave or think when they are being challenged. “Answers ranged from all across the spectrum,” Portland Program Manager Paul Taylor remarked, “But mostly they realized that they could accomplish more with the help of teammates and positive communication.”
This positive communication, in addition to serving as a powerful tool for facing challenges, aligns beautifully with the beliefs and aims of Word is Bond: “By creating spaces for dialogue and active listening,” they write, “We can make impacts on an individual level that leads to collective action to impact systems. We work towards both systemic change and interpersonal dialogue that is the framework of healthy communities.”
A highlight of this summer’s programming was the challenge ropes course. As our teams worked to create a safe space and set a strong initial tone, we were able to calm the nerves of both the Word is Bond interns and the officers. “It was quite the tip-toe at first,” Taylor said, “But by lunch time they were all talking and by the end of the day they were all high-fiving and laughing together.”
In fact, this day came with one of Taylor’s favorite moments: “It was seeing one of the Word is Bond interns riding piggy back style up the hill on the back of one of the officers,” Taylor said. “Both of them were laughing and had obviously connected!”
Photos by Lakayana Drury and Paul Taylor